Memoir

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Do you know me? After reading this list, you won’t know everything about me, but you’ll have a good idea of what I have done and where I’ve been. I’ve tried to live life to its fullest, because after all, in my opinion, this is not a dress rehearsal. What have I done with my life? Here’s my answer.

I have…

  • Spent two weeks in the rain forests of Costa Rica shooting a public television documentary
  • Been married three times
  • Lost two children to stillbirth
  • Visited the houses and graves of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln
  • Stood in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol
  • Flown in the Goodyear Blimp
  • A 19th great-grandfather who was King Edward III of England
  • Braced myself for a plane crash because of a landing-gear emergency
  • Seen the original U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence
  • Played saxophone in a marching band for President Richard Nixon
  • Seen a man shot in the head 15 times and killed
  • Recorded an album for CBS Records
  • Driven Mitch Miller to his broken-down van in my car
  • Was an artist’s model for a painting of a joker used on a corporate Christmas card
  • Been to Europe three times and Asia once
  • Famous cousins: I’m closely related to every U.S. president except Martin Van Buren — we are all direct descendants of King John of England, my 23rd great grandfather
  • Lost three close friends to cancer
  • Witnessed the birth of two daughters — one dead, the other alive
  • Played in a bluegrass band, jazz quintet, salsa band, big band, rock-and-roll band, symphony orchestra, concert band, marching band and sung in a choir
  • Directed a large number of live national television broadcasts
  • Sung by myself in an auditorium for 3,000 people as part of a talent contest, and won first prize
  • Met my wife when she was modeling on a video shoot I was directing
  • Heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing in the Mormon Tabernacle
  • Heard the London Symphony Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall
  • An 11th great-grandfather named William Brewster, who arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620 on the Mayflower, and signed the Mayflower Compact
  • Ridden as a passenger in an Acura NSX exotic sports car through the desert at speeds in excess of 150mph
  • Won an Emmy Award (for this promo)
  • Been in the production truck of Monday Night Football during its live broadcast
  • Visited William Shakespeare’s home at Stratford-Upon-Avon
  • Had my television camerawork broadcast on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite
  • Climbed on the rocks at Stonehenge before they stopped letting people do that
  • Sat first chair tenor saxophone in the North Carolina All-State Band
  • Piloted an airplane (taxi, takeoff, VFR flight and assisted landing)
  • Earned money playing guitar, saxophone, clarinet, flute, piano and organ
  • Played saxophone professionally on regular gigs for 12 years
  • Play jazz drums and bass
  • Written at least 200,000 words each year from 1999 – 2013
  • Been the voice-over talent for two years’ worth of car commercials, among many others including ads for the Harlem Globetrotters, Monster Trucks and a funeral home
  • Written the most widely-read article in Digital Media Net’s history
  • Designed and supervised construction to completion of my 3,400-square-foot house
  • Worked for two days as personal assistant to Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo), whose birthday is on the same day as my father’s (June 27, 1927)
  • Played tenor drum in the drum corps of a marching band, and wrote all the cadences we played
  • Dragged Edward Kennedy while he was sitting in a chair (with his permission)
  • Learned to speak halting and vulgar street Spanish and barely passable French, but can’t anymore
  • Not celebrated Christmas for many years because of my evidence-based beliefs
  • Went on the road with a big band when I was 16 without missing any school
  • Heard the New York Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein conducting (in Central Park)
  • Eaten frog legs
  • Interviewed The Amazing Randi (James Randi) for a story I was working on
  • Flown in a helicopter while directing a video shoot
  • Chug-a-lugged two liters of beer in less than 10 seconds without taking a breath
  • Run the 40-yard dash in 5.0 seconds
  • Stood on the grave of Charles Darwin in Westminster Abbey
  • Worked as a professional dishwasher for two weeks
  • Played saxophone on a live, internationally televised telethon
  • Gotten motion sickness from playing a first-person-shooter computer game
  • Shook the hand of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a 2016 campaign rally
  • Walked 26 miles in one day, three times, for charity
  • Driven 1,000 miles alone in one sitting, four times
  • Directed national sewing, cooking, business, parade and astronomy television broadcasts
  • Stood at the rubble of the World Trade Center soon after it was destroyed
  • Experienced the sudden death of a young parent
  • Designed the blueprints and installed the wiring for my home theater
  • Created a post that made it to the front page of Reddit
  • Run two miles per day for seven years
  • Seen someone intravenously injecting heroin (but didn’t join in)
  • Stayed at 16 different hotels in Las Vegas
  • A stepson who lives in Alameda, California
  • Played guitar and keyboards in a band when I was 13 with 18-year-old musicians who got us a gig at my junior high school
  • Injured my stomach on a thrill ride in Las Vegas
  • Baked a chocolate cake from scratch
  • Predicted a life-changing event would happen on July 7, 1990, which turned out to be the first day I lived in Milwaukee, where I have lived ever since
  • A wife who believes in life after death, but I disagree with that
  • Seen two men fighting over a loaded gun in a parking lot; the gun fired, its bullet striking the pavement
  • Taught an airline pilot how to use Photoshop CS5 while we were flying (he was also a passenger at the time)
  • Eaten blue corn chips on top of a mountain
  • Worked for two years as a professional drive-time announcer at a classical public radio station
  • Played organ and guitar for a church service
  • Been part of a chase crew that launched a hot-air balloon
  • Walked 4 miles daily for two years
  • Participated in a computer-building race for charity but didn’t win
  • Visited the house and grave of my uncle Samuel F. Miller, who was a United States Supreme Court Justice, nominated by Abraham Lincoln
  • Lived with undiagnosed hypothyroidism for two years
  • A daughter who is a descendant of John Adams, as well as John Alden from the Mayflower
  • Worked on at least one job since I was 12 years old
  • Lived next to a convicted murderer and confronted him about making too much noise
  • Graduated from the University of Miami in 1978
  • Attended a taping of the NBC show Tomorrow with Tom Snyder in New York in 1980
  • Been a cameraman at a Jimmy Carter speech while he was president
  • Downhill skied in excess of 45 mph for one mile without falling
  • Been called a “fucking idiot” by Apple CEO Steve Jobs for writing a negative column about him and Apple that was true
  • Attended what many sports commentators have called the greatest football game ever played, a Monday Night Football game where the Miami Dolphins handed the Chicago Bears their only loss of the 1986 NFL season
  • Been hospitalized for a life-threatening infection
  • Made more than 5,000 phone calls for Bernie Sanders, and became a member of his Advanced Call Team (ACT)
  • No credit card debt, and haven’t for years
  • Lost more than 50 lb. three times
  • Been participating in a weight-loss study with the National Weight Control Registry by proving I have maintained at least a 30-pound weight loss for one year or longer (now maintained 50 lb. loss for two years)
  • Moved 20 times since birth
  • Caught a nine-pound rainbow trout in Lake Michigan and then did not cook it nor eat it
  • Learned to direct TV by eavesdropping on Don Roy King, then directing Good Morning America — he’s now directing Saturday Night Live
  • Thrown up on a school bus
  • “Flown” in a flight simulator for Lockheed L-1011 jets
  • Grown up in a family where competition was more important than camaraderie
  • Exchanged emails with Roger Ebert twice, and he used my comments in his column
  • Quit smoking cigarettes for good in 1998 after many unsuccessful attempts
  • Worked as a cameraman on a TV show where the anchorman swallowed a housefly rather than spit it out on live TV
  • Had cosmetic surgery to improve my personal appearance
  • Stood two feet away from a coyote without it knowing it
  • Read 100 books in a summer
  • Never shoplifted, but have downloaded music without paying for it
  • Had my column read regularly by Bill Gates, according to his assistants
  • Earned a position on the high-school varsity football team and then promptly quit
  • Broken 100 in golf and broken 200 bowling
  • Trained for and passed the test for a real-estate sales license in the State of Florida
  • Flown in two different types of seaplanes
  • Rescued a damsel in distress by changing her flat tire
  • Shaken the hand of President Bill Clinton
  • Run two miles through a hurricane
  • Been to a topless beach in Key West
  • Won a Ferrari laptop in a drawing, then donated it to my daughter’s middle school
  • Baked a chocolate soufflé that didn’t fall
  • Climbed to the summit of Grandfather Mountain multiple times using all five trails
  • Been to five Cirque Du Soleil performances, the best entertainment events I’ve ever seen
  • Worked on the political campaign of George McGovern in 1972, and then met him and had a pleasant and extended conversation with him 25 years later
  • An IQ that’s one point lower than my daughter’s
  • Brought a magician to the U.S. and got him on the Today show, The Ellen Degeneres Show, Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” and The Wall Street Journal’s “Lunch Break” TV show
  • Worked in broadcasting in one way or another from 1974 – 2007
  • At one time had five jobs I was working on at the same time; two of them were full-time
  • Played organ with a symphony orchestra for a world premiere of a Pulitzer prize-winning composer’s work
  • Held in my hand the same burgundy-colored Mont Blanc ballpoint pen (given to me by my late father — it’s pictured at the top of this site) during every television program I’ve ever directed
  • Been to the top of the tallest building in North America (Willis Tower in Chicago) three times
  • Attended every Jewish ritual except a bris
  • Refused the marriage proposal of a Colombian woman who needed to marry a gringo so she wouldn’t be deported
  • A daughter who makes straight A’s and scored 31 on her ACT, but is highly disorganized
  • Spent four consecutive days in intensive care because of atrial fibrillation (a heart condition)
  • Found out how it feels to die when my heart briefly stopped and I lost consciousness because of that atrial fibrillation event
  • Witnessed the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-8) launch from the press area at Kennedy Space Center
  • Won a Wisconsin Broadcasters Award for Excellence for writing, producing and directing the promo of the year
  • Had a valet parking attendant bring me the wrong car, which my key was able to start
  • Had a vicious dog chasing me, but just before he bit me, a car ran him over, killing him
  • Lived in a loft for three years that was formerly the two-story-tall refrigerator of a brewery
  • Seen a musician sitting next to me in a recording session have a grand mal seizure due to cocaine abuse and carted away in an ambulance, after which he falsely accused me of stealing $200 from him
  • Acted as my own attorney in a divorce proceeding, and had a fool for a client
  • Been caught speeding in excess of 120mph, but paid off the South Carolina state trooper with $25 and was released
  • Resigned from the Methodist Church when I was 16 — told the preacher in his office, “I quit”
  • Traveled to every major city in the U.S. except Dallas and Portland
  • Heard a news producer with whom I was working at the time cheering when she first heard the news of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, yelling about how it was going to be a “great story” on our newscast that night
  • Written a comment to a Salon columnist about that producer’s behavior regarding the Lockerbie crash, who referred to that comment in his column
  • Written jazz band arrangements of Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” and “Tuxedo Junction,” which were publicly performed
  • Moved to a new city, alone, without knowing anybody
  • Seen a broken baseball bat fly into the stands at a major league baseball game, hitting the woman sitting beside me
  • Learned how to play the banjo, Earl Scruggs style
  • An overly active olfactory sense but reduced color sense and damaged hearing
  • Directed my wife as she operated a camera on a multicamera television shoot
  • Climbed the stairs to the top of the Washington Monument
  • Met and photographed a porn star
  • Written articles for Wired, Popular Science, Maximum PC and I.D. magazines
  • Ridden a fast horse at top speed and enjoyed it
  • Cut a living human umbilical cord with a pair of surgical scissors
  • Seen the Green Bay Packers with Brett Favre as quarterback play at Lambeau Field
  • A collection of dozens of name tags from press events
  • Music playing in my head most of the time, usually against my will
  • Lived in Wisconsin since 1990 and liked it a lot
  • Carried a coffin (with my grandfather’s dead body inside) and almost dropped it
  • A brother-in-law who won the Pulitzer Prize for Music (Henry Brant, Ice Field)
  • An interest in architecture, especially Palladianism and the work of Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, Zaha Hadid and Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Stood in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre
  • A collection of stickers, affixed to an old metal trash can, that I’ve been adding to since 1974
  • Played in a four-piece bluegrass band while sitting on top of a moving car, damaging the roof
  • Had a blue-and-gold macaw named Chazz, who lived in my house and called me by name every day for two years
  • Created a weekly podcast called Coolness Roundup, broadcast on Sirius Satellite Radio and ran for five years and 235 episodes
  • Got a cease-and-desist letter from the Coca-Cola Company because the logo I created for Coolness Roundup was deemed to be too similar to the Coke logo
  • Written a monthly column in three different national magazines for a total of five years
  • Been a cameraman on a nationally broadcast tennis match played by Jimmy Connors
  • Copy-edited two internationally distributed books
  • Seen UFOs twice, but don’t believe they were alien spacecraft
  • Swam a mile
  • Seen a person born and a person die
  • Been discriminated against because of my race
  • Never missed a day (or even a minute) of work because of drugs or alcohol
  • Fallen off the back of a moving car
  • Completed a paper route in freezing rain, after which my raincoat was frozen solid enough to stand up in a corner
  • Missed a dentist appointment because his office had burned down that morning
  • Taken an annual trip to Arlington Park horserace track with my daughter for four years in a row
  • Given numerous hour-long speeches in front of large rooms full of people
  • Ridden a Harley-Davidson motorcycle
  • Had shoulder-length hair and a beard
  • Been bitten by a bird
  • Spotted the rare and elusive Resplendent Quetzal in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve of Costa Rica, said to be the most beautiful bird in the Western Hemisphere
  • Seen the Northern Lights (aurora borealis)
  • Little patience for vicious animals and the people who possess them
  • Been to a party on an aircraft carrier
  • Driven a Corvette through the desert at 100mph
  • Had my tonsils out
  • Caught a moray eel while deep-sea fishing
  • Had a tornado knock down five trees in my yard, but I wasn’t home at the time
  • Installed a completely automated home lighting system in 1988
  • Written a 1,000-word article every working day for a month
  • Worn a solid-gold Rolex watch for 25 years
  • Founded my corporation: Tempamatic, Inc.
  • Installed a water faucet
  • Been an audio assistant for a George H. W. Bush speech
  • Watched a warehouse burn to the ground
  • Written two editions of a book (the first was 71,000 words, the second 100,000) with my writing partner, sold it to a publisher, collected an advance and am still collecting royalties
  • Been dealt a royal flush in Texas Hold ‘Em poker
  • Walked across Hoover Dam
  • Taught guitar lessons at the same place where I took my first guitar lessons
  • In Mumbai, appeared on the Indian version of MTV
  • Complained about grammatical errors on a blog, and then the editor hired me to fix them. We ended up writing a book together
  • Given bad reviews to (bad) products presented to me by long-time friends
  • Run five miles
  • Stood on a runway under a Boeing 747 taking off
  • Been a day trader of stocks for three months (broke even)
  • Been attacked by a cloud of mosquitoes in the Florida Everglades
  • Spent three months learning how to play a James Taylor song on the guitar
  • Eaten key lime pie in the Florida Keys
  • Begun a quest to find the best burger in the world
  • Covered George W. Bush with the White House Press Corps
  • Hired a billionaire (Peter Buffett) for a freelance project
  • Written 4,484 blog posts on Gizmodo over two years
  • Been interviewed for articles by a woman in Israel, a man in Iraq, and a woman in India
  • Walked 1,000 miles in a year, measured by a wrist GPS device (9/15/05 – 9/15/06)
  • Walked 4,000 miles between March 30, 2014 and August 31, 2016
  • Corrrectly predicted a home run would be hit on the next pitch at a major league baseball game
  • A great-great-great-grandmother who danced with Abraham Lincoln at his inaugural ball, shortly before his assassination in 1865
  • A great-great grandmother, Liza Jane Corley White, who was an African-American
  • Stood in the rock rubble underneath Mount Rushmore
  • Created this viral video on YouTube that has been viewed more than 2.8 million times
  • Looked down into a Minuteman missile silo with a missile inside
  • Created a computer typeface called “Helen” in Fontographer software; the font was based on my former (late) mother-in-law’s calligraphy
  • Eaten ice cream atop a 10,450-foot mountain peak near Jackson Hole
  • Accidentally run over three rabbits one night in Wyoming
  • A wife who had speaking parts in two national television advertisements for Walgreens
  • A stepsister killed by a drunk driver
  • Stood among the Bartolotta Fireworks firing team while they launched 10,000 mortar shells on the 4th of July
  • Given four presentations to Warner Brothers executives on the Warner Backlot in Hollywood
  • Been interviewed by BBC Radio World Service while I was in Mumbai, India
  • Told my father he was going to die, and helped him cope with his impending death
  • Seen a three-year old girl with a starving newborn infant in her arms, begging for food
  • Had food poisoning aboard a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 flight from Tokyo to L.A., was hospitalized after suffering for 10 hours
  • Hiked 12 miles in total darkness in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine, no flashlights allowed
  • A daughter who had 6-hour spinal fusion surgery to cure her scoliosis
  • Written more than 2,200 posts for DVICE, an NBC tech and consumer electronics site, from 2007 – 2010
  • Worked from 2010 – 2013 as Senior Editor at Mashable, a website with 25 million unique visitors per month
  • Written 1,433 news posts, reviews and features for Mashable, resulting in the highest traffic numbers anyone had ever achieved at that site
  • Seen Barack Obama give his 2008 victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago
  • Written a long, long list, which was oddly enjoyable for me